Writing a Trilogy – Keeping Readers Engaged

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Welcome to the last week of our writing series – How to Write a Trilogy. Throughout the series, we’ve talked about plotting your trilogy, the importance of crafting a character that your readers can relate to, and different types of endings for each novel and your series as a whole. Boy, it’s been a big couple of weeks!

This week we are going to wrap up the series by discussing how to keep your readers engaged throughout each novel.

If you’ve only just joined us, this is a four-part series that discusses how to write a trilogy. You can check out the articles here:

Plus, I have a free checklist for you to download so you don’t feel too overwhelmed or lost with the whole process. Here it is!

Now, let’s nail that ending!

Are Three Books Right For You?

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First of all, keeping your readers engaged is one of the most important parts of writing a novel. At any time they can easily close the pages because they lost interest in the characters and the story.

The reason I ask you if three books are right for you is that majority of the time your trilogy will suffer in the middle (second book). A lot of writers use the second novel as a ‘filler’ to bridge the first novel’s conflict to the resolution in the last novel.

While there isn’t a problem with this, many writers try to stretch their plot to fit three novels causing many readers to lose interest in the second novel. In that case, perhaps you’d like to look at a duology (two books).

If you can’t fit your novel into two books but are struggling to still stretch it across three and keep your readers engaged, then I suggest you go back to the basics and look at the following:

  • Conflict
  • Tying each book together
  • Fresh and exciting ideas

Let’s break them down below.

Creating and Maintaining Conflict:

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A while ago I wrote an article on How to Increase the Tension in Your Story, and the same thing applies to trilogies as well. So, what is tension exactly? Tension is all about two opposing forces creating a strain in your novel, therefore leading to conflict.

You can create tension through:

Character arcs:

The tension between your characters, their relationships with other people, and the hero and villain of your story can help to heighten the excitement and climatic points of your novel.

Within your plot:

The other important part of your novel that you must implement tension into is your plot. This is your story arc, the journey in which your characters take place throughout the novel.

It’s not hard to create conflict, and the best part about creating conflict for a trilogy is you have the chance to expand it, carry it on for longer, give it a deeper meaning. This will make it even more satisfying if you resolve it in the end. If you’d like to learn more about the different types of tension you can have in your novels, check it out here.

Tying Each Book Together:

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Have you ever read a trilogy and all of a sudden something that happened all the way back in the first book now makes total sense in the last? This method is called tying all your loose ends, Easter eggs, plot arcs, characters, foreshadowing, and more together.

Let’s take a look at Harry Potter for example (spoilers alert).

If you haven’t read Harry Potter by now then I highly recommend you do. Though this isn’t a trilogy, it’s a great example of how to tie your series together. Let’s take a look at Voldemorts locket as our first example. In Harry Potter and the Order Of The Pheonix, Harry and his friends are cleaning out Sirius’ family home. They stumble across a heavy, old locket that none of them can open. Deeming it useless, they throw it out. It isn’t until the next book, Harry Potter and the Half-blooded Prince that we find out that necklace was actually a Horcrux, and one of the items Harry has to destroy in order to bring Voldemort down.

Another example is probably one of my favourites of the series. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!

Dumbledore’s death was already predicted by Professor Trelawney during their Christmas dinner all the way back in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. She quotes – “If I join the table, we shall be thirteen!” she says. “Nothing could be more unlucky! Never forget that when 13 dine together, the first to rise will be the first to die!” Good old Dumbledore rose from that table and met his horrible fate three books later.

As you can see, Rowling loves her foreshadowing and this is a great way to tie all of your books together. It’s the smaller details that, when they tie into something bigger, make the largest impact on the reader.

Don’t leave any loose ends!

Creating Fresh and Exciting Ideas:

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One of the joys of reading a trilogy is reading something you haven’t stumbled across before. A new idea, a fresh perspective of the literary world. Take a cliché storyline and turn it on its head.

Let’s take a look at the Divergent Series for example. (Again, spoilers alert!)

The Divergent Series is your stereotypical dystopian trilogy. The main character is a girl called Tris, and at a certain age, she gets to select which faction she will belong to in her society. She chooses Dauntless, the faction that represents bravery. She falls in love, rises as the best warrior, and so on and so forth. Throughout the trilogy, a war sparks and Tris is at the forefront of it. This is where things get interesting. Usually, the main protagonist, in this case, Tris, makes it out of the war as the hero and returns to a peaceful life where they can live out their days. The Divergent Series turns this cliché on its head and kills Tris off. No one saw it coming, being that she was the main character and the only POV.

The one thing that I took away from the Divergent Series is that you shouldn’t be afraid to ‘kill your darlings’ and try something new. How do you do that exactly? I recommend you study as many trilogies as you can. Ask yourself what makes them different?

 

And that is the end of our Writing a Trilogy Series! I’m not going to lie and tell you that it will be easy, but I will tell you that writing a trilogy is such a fun adventure to embark on. If you are looking to refresh your memory on all the content we’ve covered throughout the series, then you can find each article below:

Plus, don’t miss out on your FREE CHECKLIST to help you stay on track throughout the whole process!

 

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